The Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook features a list of the top 100 players in franchise history as ranked by Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson. The following is a story about Nos. 76-100.
The 25 players ranked as the best in Bears history from No. 76-100 include 12 who won a championship with the club, the franchise’s all-time leading passer and one current member of the team.
Three 1985 Super Bowl champions highlight the list in receivers Dennis McKinnon (No. 79) and Willie Gault (No. 83) and guard Tom Thayer (No. 84).
McKinnon, one of the top undrafted free agents in franchise history, appeared in 85 games with 54 starts in seven seasons with the Bears from 1983-89. He caught 180 passes for 2,840 yards and 21 touchdowns and returned three punts for TDs, including a 94-yarder in a 1987 Monday night win over the Giants that remains the second longest in team history.
Gault, whose No. 83 ranking matches the uniform number he wore during five seasons with the Bears from 1983-87, was known for his blazing speed and deep-threat ability. The 1983 first-round pick played in 76 games with 72 starts, catching 184 passes for 3,650 yards and 27 touchdowns and averaging 23.9 yards on 37 kickoff returns with one TD.
Thayer, a Chicago area native who attended Joliet Catholic High School and the University of Notre Dame, was an integral part of some of the best offensive lines in NFL history, appearing in 123 games with 120 starts over eight seasons with the Bears from 1985-92. He remains closely connected with the team as its longtime radio color analyst.
The 1963 championship team is even better represented than the 1985 squad, with seven players on the list: Defensive backs J.C. Caroline (No. 76) and Bennie McRae (No. 77), center Mike Pyle (No. 89), tackles Bob Wetoska (No. 91) and Herman Lee (No. 93), linebacker Larry Morris (No. 94) and punter Bobby Joe Green (No. 97).
Caroline is tied for eighth in Bears history with 24 career interceptions. A seventh-round pick, he was voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 1956 after leading the Bears with six interceptions. The Illinois product picked off Johnny Unitas’ first career pass and returned it for a touchdown. Caroline also saw limited action at running back, rushing for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 68 carries.
Pyle, a Chicago area native who attended New Trier High School, played his entire nine-year NFL career with his hometown team from 1961-69. He anchored the Bears offensive line and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1963. After his retirement, Pyle hosted Bears pre- and post-game radio shows as well as “The Mike Ditka Show” when Ditka was head coach.
Quarterback Jay Cutler ranks No. 85 on the list. Compiling a 51-51 record as a starter in eight seasons with the Bears from 2009-16, he is the franchise’s all-time leader in completions (2,020), attempts (3,271), passing yards (23,443), passing yards per game (229.8), passing touchdowns (154) and 300-yard passing games (16).
The only current Bears player on the list from 76-100 is safety Eddie Jackson at No. 96—and no doubt will move up if he continues to perform like he did in his first two NFL seasons.
Last year Jackson was named first-team All-Pro and voted to his first Pro Bowl after he recorded a career-high six interceptions and scored three touchdowns. His five defensive TDs since joining the Bears as a fourth-round draft pick in 2017 are tied for the most by a player in his first two NFL seasons (with the Jets’ Erik McMillan in 1988-89).
Jackson was named NFC defensive player of the month last November. He helped lead the Bears to a 4-0 record, scoring three touchdowns while registering 15 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and four pass breakups.
Click through the photo gallery below of all 25 players ranked from No. 76-100, a list that also includes receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, safety Doug Plank and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly.
Counting down the best players in the storied history of the Chicago Bears as chosen by Bears Centennial Scrapbook authors Don Pierson and Dan Pompei. In the first of four galleries, we present numbers 100 through 76.